(page needs improvement)  The Konik (Polish: konik polski) or Polish primitive horse is a small horse, a kind of semi-wild pony, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of koń, the Polish word for "horse" (sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning "pony"). However, the name "konik" or "Polish konik" is used to refer to certain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive features, for example some breeds have the dun coat and dorsal stripe.  In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznań University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from the Biłgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Białowieża Forest and kept until 1808 in Zamoyski zoo. These had later been given to local peasants and crossbred with domestic horses. The Polish government commandeered all the koniks that displayed tarpan-like features. The result of this selective breeding program is that semi-wild herds of koniks can be seen today in many nature reserves and parks, and can also be seen in the last refugium in Białowieża Forest.  Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse. Nature reserves  As it is genetically very close to the extinct tarpan,[citation needed] the original European wild horse, it has been introduced into many nature reserves in the Netherlands such as the Oostvaardersplassen.  Along with the wisent and the Heck Cattle, the konik are large grazers. They keep the landscape open, and when kept without supplemental winter feeding, they alter the landscape to produce more parklike forest.  In Maastricht, the Netherlands, a herd was released in 1995, in 'de Kleine Weerd', a 12 hectare strip of land (roughly 100 m by 1 km) along the river Meuse. The area is open to the public, but people are advised not to go near the horses because their reaction is unpredictable. Koniks have also been introduced in Latvia and the United Kingdom because of the success of such programs. Koniks have been introduced into Wicken Fen near Cambridge by the National Trust. Koniks have also been introduced to a number of Nature Reserves in Kent, England by Wildwood Trust (the charity which runs the Wildwood Discovery Park) and Kent Wildlife Trust. These include Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, Ham Fen National Nature Reserve, Whitehall Meadow, Sandwich Bay and Park Gate Down.
Young Konik horse at Oostvaardersplassen Netherlands, Mirte Kruit

Konik horse - Equus ferus f. caballus

Family:
Horses and Asses (Perissodactyla Equidae)
Status:
Not Evaluated

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Taxonomic status

Scientific name

Equus ferus f. caballus

Common name

Konik horse

Synonyms

Polish: konik polski

Comments

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 28/04/2010 12:41pm (4 years ago):

    dear Waltraut

    thanks a lot for this information. The rewilding process in larger areas as the Oostvaardersplassen, where the populations of animals can develop itself without, or a under a very low level of human influence is a very interesting process and needs / deserves time.

    I think the word "tameness" can also lead to misunderstandings, wild animals can be very tame (and easy to approach) when they don't (have to) fear people. The point is that should not act in dependence on people.

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 28/04/2010 12:19pm (4 years ago):

    Waltraut Zimmermann wrote this remark by e-mail:

    Dear Hans,

    I see that we need an account to participate in discussions on the website and I asked for it. However, let me answer already in this mail.


    1. The f in the species name Equus ferus f. caballus means forma and one does not write it in italics.

    2. A domestication happens over thousands of years and by selection the species is loosing a lot of it's gene pool and genetic variety . The specimen cannot regain this. Additionally, our animals are kept on mini-pastures without any predators and they cannot choose where to go. Even on the largest areas like Oostvaadersplassen and Hortobágy with more than 2000 ha grazing ground, we have to look after them and feed them or influence the breeding by taking away the bulls, so that calves are not born in the winter time - if we do not want to loose too many animals. I know that in Oostvaadersplassen this was not done in the past and in the first years almost all animals survived. We should not forget that the climate there is relatively mild in comparison with Eastern areas. But I wonder whether the horses will not phase them out one day, when the winter pasture is shrinking because of the increasing number of animals.
    By the way our student, who is doing her PhD on the Heck cattle in Hortobágy, has meanwhile strong evidence that the climate will be a limiting factor for the survival, with the consequence that we cannot recommend to let the cattle graze in colder areas without support from humans. We will have more and more people on our planet and grassland is shrinking rapidly.
    So, all in all I cannot see, where we can keep this species under wild conditions, and therefore I would never use the word dedomesticate. To feralize means more that they loose tameness. In ideal surroundings they could perhaps survive without any support from humans. But where do we have ideal conditions? Mild climate and a very big protected park?


    That's it from my side so far.
    Best regards,
    Waltraut

    Hartmuth Jungius reflected as follows:

    Dear Hans,

    as a former student at the Institut für Haustierkunde from the University of Kiel, I can only underwrite what Waltraut says below. It is so important for the credibility of the Foundation and our team that we stay on firm scientific grounds and do fall into a trap of "popularising".

    Best wishes, Hartmut

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 27/04/2010 8:33am (4 years ago):

    Discussion about:
    * Equus ferus "breeds"versus Equus ferus f. caballus
    * Dedomestication versus Domestication, as a human influenced proces on the development of races / breeds


    You are aware that I am unhappy with the expression "dedomesticate" and offered to find a better and scientifically correct expression. I discussed this with some friends and also with Waltraut, who shares this concern with me. Waltraut drew my attention to the acticle below which refers to "to feralize", I suggest to adopt this scientific term as well in our publications.

    An other issue, is the term "wild horses" for Koniks etc. these horses are not wild, they should therefore not be termed Equus ferus, they should be called Equus caballus. Equus ferus is reserved for the real wild horses (Equus ferus przewalskii, Equus ferus gmelini). A compromise could be Equus ferus f. caballus.

    Hartmut Jungius, chairman LHF Advisory Council
    =================================================================
    Dear Hartmut and Waltraut

    My good friend Paul Koene (WUR, Wageningen), see your article, also used the word Dedomestication, a term we developed in NL: http://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/lang/367591.
    Honestly said, I like the word dedomestication very much, because I feel it it is different from feral. Dedomestication is a conscious process to develop a new breed, as close as possible to the extinct ancestor, with a same kind of ecological behaviour. And that is different from a process how pets etc. can rewild as a free, not steered process.

    Hans Kampf

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Species information

Physical characteristics

The Konik (Polish: konik polski) or Polish primitive horse is a small horse, a kind of semi-wild pony, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of koń, the Polish word for "horse" (sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning "pony"). However, the name "konik" or "Polish konik" is used to refer to certain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive features, for example some breeds have the dun coat and dorsal stripe.

In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznań University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from the Biłgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Białowieża Forest and kept until 1808 in Zamoyski zoo. These had later been given to local peasants and crossbred with domestic horses. The Polish government commandeered all the koniks that displayed tarpan-like features. The result of this selective breeding program is that semi-wild herds of koniks can be seen today in many nature reserves and parks, and can also be seen in the last refugium in Białowieża Forest.
Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse.

Konik horse in the Millingerwaard, The Netherlands

Nature reserves

As it seems genetically very close to the extinct tarpan, the original European wild horse, it has been introduced into many nature reserves in the Netherlands such as the Oostvaardersplassen.
Along with the wisent and the Heck Cattle, the konik are big grazers. They keep the landscape open, and when kept without supplemental winter feeding, they alter the landscape to produce more parklike forest.

In Maastricht, the Netherlands, a herd was released in 1995, in 'de Kleine Weerd', a 12 hectare strip of land (roughly 100 m by 1 km) along the river Meuse. The area is open to the public, but people are advised not to go near the horses because their reaction is unpredictable.
Koniks have also been introduced in Latvia and the United Kingdom because of the success of such programs. Koniks have been introduced into Wicken Fen near Cambridge by the National Trust. Koniks have also been introduced to a number of Nature Reserves in Kent, England by Wildwood Trust (the charity which runs the Wildwood Discovery Park) and Kent Wildlife Trust. These include Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, Ham Fen National Nature Reserve, Whitehall Meadow, Sandwich Bay and Park Gate Down.

(Source: Wikipedia)

In Germany, also examples are known, e.g. "Wilde Weiden, Die Neuen Wilden" in Westphalia.

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Distribution: maps, historical and current

Countries

Interactive map

Original distribution of the European Wild horses.


View European wild horse in a larger map

Distribution of the European Wild horse Substitutes. Please add your location.


European wild horse (substitutes) weergeven op een grotere kaart

Further map information

The current distribution map of the Konik horse is incompleet. Therefore all information is welcome. Only areas throughout Eurasia larger than 500ha are interesting to be shown on the map.

Historical distribution

Formerly throughout Eurasia.

  • Last wild European subspecies are believed to have died in Poland in 1814, in Ukraine in 1879. However it is most probable that these were already feral horses (Vlasakker, van de; pers.comm. 2007).
  • Wild populations of the subspecies survived (at least until recently) in SW Mongolia and adjacent Gansu, Sinkian, and Inner Mongolia (China).
  • Domesticated worldwide; feral in Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, Iran and several countries outside the Palaearctic.

(Equid specialist group, 1996a; Wilson & Reeder, 2005)

 

Current distribution

As with Aurochs, attempts have been made to introduce certain breeds (e.g. Konik) that are close to there wild ancestors to the wild. With respect to these projects it is of importance that species are introduced in the range of the original wild subspecies, it resembles most.

Running koniks

 

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Conservation information

IUCN Red List

Not Evaluated:

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Library

Discussions

Presentations

Reports

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Experts and scientific referees

Bunzel-Drüke, Margret

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz (ABU), Kreis Soest e.v.

Kerkdijk, Henri

Restoring cattle breeds for Europe; genetics of prehistoric fauna
Stichting Taurus
www.stichtingtaurus.nl

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Sources

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All comments on Konik horse (Equus ferus f. caballus )

Comments

  • Henri Kerkdijk wrote on 26/09/2010 9:24am (4 years ago):

    Regarding the discussion about to feralize or to dedomesticate; a species can regain genetic diversity. Regarding the stimuli from factors like climate, vegetation, predation, population sizes, etcetera, each animal will respond in a different way on a genetical level. Genetic mutations occur and will be divers. Also, if the circumstances liike climate and vegetation are the same as they used to be, you will see genetic mutations that in probability will follow the same paths. Selection under natural circumstances is far more diverse than human selection on certain traits and that diversity will show in the mutations that will occur. For instance in the Oostvaardersplassen it has been observed that zebra stripes started to show in the Konik population after some time and generations. What triggers this is not actually known, but in my opinion it is a good example of 'dedomestication'. It is important to see 'dedomestication' not as according to structured human demands, but a nature structured/driven process that seems random to us, but actually is not
    Also, the mutations in mitochondrial DNA will ofcourse not be the same as in the original species, but fortunally we are after mutations in nuclear DNA where all the actual characteristics of an animal are coded..

    Henri

  • Henri Kerkdijk wrote on 24/09/2010 10:57am (4 years ago):

    I am very curious what DNA research confirmed that the Konik is directly related to the Tarpan.
    Furthermore, there is very little known about the original tarpan. Most (there are very few) sources describe a steppe animal in the Ukraine and Russia and not a forest animal, like the habitat of the Koniks in Poland.
    Furthermore, a breeding program based on phenotypical features doesn't say anything about genotype, certain behavioral traits, etcetera. After 130 years of mixing a few Tarpans with polish farmer horses, the original tarpans genes had been diluted and afterwards they only selected on physical traits based on a few historical sources describing an animal from the steppes of the Ukraine and Russia.
    In my opinion it is highly debatable that the Konik is a direct descendant of the Polish subvariety of the Tarpan or not. Any direct link should be substantiated with clear scientific (i.e. genetic) studies.

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 28/04/2010 12:41pm (4 years ago):

    dear Waltraut

    thanks a lot for this information. The rewilding process in larger areas as the Oostvaardersplassen, where the populations of animals can develop itself without, or a under a very low level of human influence is a very interesting process and needs / deserves time.

    I think the word "tameness" can also lead to misunderstandings, wild animals can be very tame (and easy to approach) when they don't (have to) fear people. The point is that should not act in dependence on people.

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 28/04/2010 12:19pm (4 years ago):

    Waltraut Zimmermann wrote this remark by e-mail:

    Dear Hans,

    I see that we need an account to participate in discussions on the website and I asked for it. However, let me answer already in this mail.


    1. The f in the species name Equus ferus f. caballus means forma and one does not write it in italics.

    2. A domestication happens over thousands of years and by selection the species is loosing a lot of it's gene pool and genetic variety . The specimen cannot regain this. Additionally, our animals are kept on mini-pastures without any predators and they cannot choose where to go. Even on the largest areas like Oostvaadersplassen and Hortobágy with more than 2000 ha grazing ground, we have to look after them and feed them or influence the breeding by taking away the bulls, so that calves are not born in the winter time - if we do not want to loose too many animals. I know that in Oostvaadersplassen this was not done in the past and in the first years almost all animals survived. We should not forget that the climate there is relatively mild in comparison with Eastern areas. But I wonder whether the horses will not phase them out one day, when the winter pasture is shrinking because of the increasing number of animals.
    By the way our student, who is doing her PhD on the Heck cattle in Hortobágy, has meanwhile strong evidence that the climate will be a limiting factor for the survival, with the consequence that we cannot recommend to let the cattle graze in colder areas without support from humans. We will have more and more people on our planet and grassland is shrinking rapidly.
    So, all in all I cannot see, where we can keep this species under wild conditions, and therefore I would never use the word dedomesticate. To feralize means more that they loose tameness. In ideal surroundings they could perhaps survive without any support from humans. But where do we have ideal conditions? Mild climate and a very big protected park?


    That's it from my side so far.
    Best regards,
    Waltraut

    Hartmuth Jungius reflected as follows:

    Dear Hans,

    as a former student at the Institut für Haustierkunde from the University of Kiel, I can only underwrite what Waltraut says below. It is so important for the credibility of the Foundation and our team that we stay on firm scientific grounds and do fall into a trap of "popularising".

    Best wishes, Hartmut

  • Hans Kampf wrote on 27/04/2010 8:33am (4 years ago):

    Discussion about:
    * Equus ferus "breeds"versus Equus ferus f. caballus
    * Dedomestication versus Domestication, as a human influenced proces on the development of races / breeds


    You are aware that I am unhappy with the expression "dedomesticate" and offered to find a better and scientifically correct expression. I discussed this with some friends and also with Waltraut, who shares this concern with me. Waltraut drew my attention to the acticle below which refers to "to feralize", I suggest to adopt this scientific term as well in our publications.

    An other issue, is the term "wild horses" for Koniks etc. these horses are not wild, they should therefore not be termed Equus ferus, they should be called Equus caballus. Equus ferus is reserved for the real wild horses (Equus ferus przewalskii, Equus ferus gmelini). A compromise could be Equus ferus f. caballus.

    Hartmut Jungius, chairman LHF Advisory Council
    =================================================================
    Dear Hartmut and Waltraut

    My good friend Paul Koene (WUR, Wageningen), see your article, also used the word Dedomestication, a term we developed in NL: http://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/lang/367591.
    Honestly said, I like the word dedomestication very much, because I feel it it is different from feral. Dedomestication is a conscious process to develop a new breed, as close as possible to the extinct ancestor, with a same kind of ecological behaviour. And that is different from a process how pets etc. can rewild as a free, not steered process.

    Hans Kampf

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  • If you have an account login by clicking here.
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